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Confidence takes over after Iraq jitters pass

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 3, 2003

EVIAN, France - President Bush's fiercest opponents over Iraq worked to put the war and the rift with America behind them Monday, with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder pledging firm support to build a stable and prosperous Iraq.

But charges the United States and Britain used flawed intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to justify the war cast a dark shadow on the Group of Eight summit. British Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected the accusations, leading a chorus of defensive comments around the globe from America and its allies over why they went to war.

On other topics, the leaders claimed that they had addressed some concerns raised by antiglobalization protesters, devoting a record amount of time to discussions to alleviate poverty in developing countries.

The leaders exchanged views on economic reforms and said there were hopeful signs that stronger economic growth was on the way in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Chirac called the economic discussions "very positive" and said the leaders expressed a "message of confidence" that their countries could achieve higher growth rates.

They pledged to redouble efforts to counter global terrorism, focusing on such issues as blocking financing and denying safe haven to terrorists. And they issued a strong statement urging North Korea to dismantle any nuclear weapons programs and underlining the danger posed by Iran's advanced nuclear program.

But Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said the stern warning for Iran to comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty was not a prelude to military action - another reminder of how talk of the Iraq war hung over the meeting.

"No. We don't want them to have them," Chretien said. "And if they have them, they have to destroy them."

Bush left in midafternoon for the Middle East for talks with the leaders of Israel and various Arab countries to get the peace process back on track, but the leaders said his early exit did not hurt progress at the meeting. They offered their full support for Bush's diplomatic shuttle mission that took him straight to Egypt from the shores of Lake Geneva.

"We all felt that he needs to work personally on the Middle East process," Chretien said. "He represents the wishes of the rest of the countries at the discussions."

The summit will end today with the reading of a chairman's statement by Chirac and a round of news conferences by the other leaders.

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